Water deal for runway will cost Aspen airport $1.7M | AspenTimes.com
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Water deal for runway will cost Aspen airport $1.7M

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Pitkin County/Jviation Inc.The shaded areas to the west and south of the airport are part of the Buttermilk Metropolitan District service area that will be hooked up to the city of Aspen's water system.
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ASPEN – Hooking up 77 residences in the West Buttermilk area to city of Aspen water in order to facilitate an airport runway project will cost Pitkin County $1.7 million in tap fees plus other costs.

The move is necessary to make way for extension of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport runway, and the costs will be paid out of the airport’s revenues, according to Scott Cary, project manager for Denver-based Jviation Inc., an airport consulting firm that is working with the county.

The City Council approved the agreement on Monday. On Wednesday, county commissioners approved an emergency resolution to enter into an agreement with the metro district to secure water for airport facilities.

Homes served by the Buttermilk Metropolitan District get water from wells at the south end of the runway, as do airport facilities on the west side of the runway, off Owl Creek Road. The wells must be capped and a pump house removed to accommodate extension of the runway.

“The runway would have overrun the well field itself,” said County Attorney John Ely.

Lengthy negotiations between the district and the city threatened to push the runway project off the table for this year. Federal Aviation Administration approvals are necessary this month in order for construction to occur this year, according to a memo to the City Council.

“The timeline has been pushed right to the brink because of the protracted negotiations with the city,” Ely said.

Commissioner Michael Owsley commended the city for approving the deal, acknowledging “difficult” negotiations.

“It was the last hurdle to jump over for the extension of the airport,” he said.

The agreement calls for the city to sell water in bulk to the district – something it does not typically do. The district will then bill its water users, including the airport. The city will provide up to 35.3 million gallons per year to the district, charging $2.50 per thousand gallons for the first 3 million gallons per month and $5.89 per thousand gallons for any additional water each month.

Typical water usage within the district was calculated as part of the negotiation; the cost of water to homeowners should be roughly equal to what operation of the well system costs, according to Cary.

“That was a big concern for the homeowners,” he said.

Tap fees, to be paid to the city by the airport, will total about $1.7 million. In addition, the airport will pay $137,898 in well system development charges and $146,000 in payments in lieu of water rights.

Construction of the runway extension, which will add about 1,000 feet, is expected to begin this spring. It will cost an estimated $14.5 million; 95 percent of the cost will be funded by the FAA with money from taxes it collects on fuel, airfare and freight. The airport will fund the remainder of the construction out of its revenues.

No closure of the airport is anticipated during the project.

The additional runway length isn’t aimed at accommodating larger aircraft, but rather, more types of regional jets. A longer runway is also expected to ease weight restrictions that force airlines to limit the number of passengers an aircraft can carry.

janet@aspentimes.com


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